Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Build 101...modern gas fireplace

In today's Build 101 I am talking fireplaces.  I love our fireplace, in fact of all the many things we have built in our home this is my favourite.  You can read all about my decision to gas over wood fire here, in this post we are going to look at measurements and materials.

I would absolutely specify this glass sided fireplace again.  I love that you can see the flames from the side (see below).  Useful because our modular chaise runs along the fireplace wall, we wouldn't see much of the flames in a more traditional unit.

My husband did almost all the building for this unit himself (he is pretty amazing).  He built the floating shelf and the wooden fireplace hood or chimney breast.  We got the gas fireplace supplier to install the fireplace and we also employed a plasterer to do the cement finish render.

I wanted the floating shelf to run seamlessly across the room, I did not want the fireplace lip to come over this edge or interfere with the sight line in any way.  If this is what you want you must specify a recessed fire tray, the metal plate the stones fit on.  The suppliers can do it but it might not be on the show room floor.  Make sure you get what you want and don't take no for an answer.

Design decisions I would make again:
  • Glass sided fireplace
  • Recessed fire tray
  • Shelf that runs the full width of the room.
  • Height of shelf 50cm - slightly higher than the chaise on the sofa 41cm
  • Depth of shelf was made as narrow as possible but had to be deep enough to hold the gas unit.  Our shelf is 57cm with the plaster.  
  • The fireplace hood is 140cm wide by 141cm high.  I did not follow the size of the firebox which is actually far smaller, but a smaller hood would have looked silly.  Specify your surround to suit your space and aesthetic, not simply to clad the unit.

Decisions to consider:
  • A gas fireplace needs an electric switch to turn on.  We tucked ours discreetly on the right hand side of the chimney, out of sight from the main living room.  
  • The fireplace also needs to be plugged in.  Our plug point is hidden in the wall cavity below the shelf.   We have a sneaky seamless panel that looks like its part of the wall.
  • Use this cavity space to hide other cables and power points.
  • Don't forget to consider the thickness of the finished surface when you are designing.  You could be using plaster, wood or a stone product and they are all different.  
  • The cement finish is porous and will mark  occasionally with time and use.  We are happy with that, if this isn't for you make sure you seal the cement, or choose another finish.
  • We were warned that the cement might crack with the heat from the fire, it hasn't happened to us.
  • Use samples to test the cement finish colour.  We found a dramatic difference between sealed and unsealder, and also between the actual product and the colour charts.  
  • Consider the weight the shelf will take when finished (see below)

Getting the cement render done was problematic.  Cement render products pay attention now because you need to up your game.  The product we really liked is based in Queensland, had no suppliers in NSW nor any way we could see their product.  They don't sell samples and only sell to professional plasterers.  No surprises that we didn't use this product.
Contacting the companies who specialise in cement finishes brought no joy either.  Most never got back to us but we did get one quote for $6,000.  For a single shelf which required a bag of product costing around $100 and a day of labour tops.  Madness.

In the end Mr B had to drive a long way to buy a pack of cement from another supplier who couldn't recommend any trades.  We ended up hiring a local plasterer who was willing to give it a go, and didn't mind that the job was about 6 hours long split over three days.  At the end of the day I love the result and it cost us around $1,000 to apply.  So yes I would do this again, but with the proviso that it may need persistance to get it done.

The floating shelf is a very clever design of Mr B's.  See blog post on the construction here.  We wanted it to be strong enough for people to sit on, or for a child to stand on.  Just in case either of these things should happen, not because that is how we envision it being used.  The shelf is cantilevered off battons below it that are pinned directly to the wall battons, very strong.  This means that the space below the shelf is not quite as deep as the shelf itself, but you don't notice.  The eye is totally tricked.

For more in the Build 101 series click here: lots of tips, tricks and information to make your build decisions just that little bit easier.

Friday, May 22, 2015

around the house...succulents and skulls

I have had this amazing print by Mia Widlake for about 5 years, safely rolled up while I tried to decide how to frame it.  Finally I was inspired by some floating prints in Sabine McDonald's home and decided to mount this print between two pieces of glass.  I am thrilled with how it turned out.  Worth the wait and will definitely use this framing method again.

Love how it goes with the succulents and cement.  Have a lovely weekend

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

jenny wolf interiors...loft design inspiration

I have to share this amazing Noho loft by Jenny Wolf Interiors.  Its a gorgeous muted but textured interior with lots of luxe details.  I just adore the chevron marble tiles with the brass shower hardware, and the detail in the wood and handles of the wardrobe door, sigh...  Skip down for more eye candy and pop by the Jenny Wolf site to see more of their lovely work.

So much to like in the entrance below.  I always love distressed mirrors, and am a huge fan of a bench near the entrance where you can put your shoes on.  Clearly in my home with my children a bench like this could not be used for display.  Those floors are awesome, love the colour of the door and trim, and adore the light.  I could live here tomorrow.

Love the painted brick wall with the crisp kitchen.  Just so lovely...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Around the house...

Love fresh flowers around the home.  One of the lovely things about winter is that it's tulip time.  My long legged horses agree.

Have a lovely weekend

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

cotton on and mark tuckey's divine homewares collaboration

I fell in love with this new collection the moment I saw this press release!  I already have a few must have pieces picked out.  How gorgeous is the round tassel pillow below (for Miss J) and I must must have the blue velvet with blanket stitch edges and the shaggy white and navy, especially the shaggy white and navy, a bit further down.

I am already a huge fan of everything Cotton On and Mark Tuckey, and while I have many Cotton On items in my home I have never been able to afford anything at Mark Tuckey.  Here is hoping that this collection will combine Cotton On's great quality and price point with Mark Tuckey's fab style and fresh Australian aesthetic.  We will all find out when the collection goes on sale online on 3 July.  It will be in select stores from  9 July, hopefully somewhere near me will be stocking it.
My gorgeous hubby made me a Mark Tuckey inspired day bed just like the one in the shoot below, we couldn't afford to buy it, and it will look sensational with these cushions on it.  May have to get a few.  Absolutely loving these knits in the fresh citrus colours.

My heart totally belongs to the moodier part of the collection, and really I am thinking I might be on the same wave length as the creative team, see my diy blanket stitch detail of velvet pillows here, and I am obsessed by Morrocan wedding blankets which have a very similar vibe to the white and navy shaggy pillow, (see my 2015 trends here).

Can't wait to go online and see what these are going to be sold for, I am really hoping its going to be reasonable and I can get a few things to do a winter update for our home.  Congrats to both Cotton On and Mark Tuckey on what looks like a truly fabulous collaboration.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Build 101...living lightly on the grid - using solar panels to reduce your energy footprint

Having a light energy footprint is good good thing, good for the planet, good for resale (people are thinking about these issues more and more) and good for your wallet.  Win win I tell you.

When we built two years ago, reducing our energy footprint was an important part of the plan and we incorporated these energy saving feautures into our home:

  • Double glazed glass, insulated floors, walls and roof.  Insulation to keep us warm in winter and cool in summer
  • Windows designed to encourage natural airflow throughout the home.  
  • This works far better than I thought.  If we have been out on a hot day and the house has been shut up we open our bedroom door upstairs and a door downstairs and you can feel the cool breeze flowing down the staircase.  The whole house is cooled naturally in ten minutes.
  • Ceiling fans instead of an air conditioner.  
  • Solar panels to harness the great natural sunlight we all enjoy for free
  • A shaded central courtyard opening onto all our living spaces - provides a cool summer space which cools all our living spaces.

Did we survive without air conditioning? 
Its been three years and in that time Sydney has had record heat waves.  Did we survive without air conditioning?  Yes!  There were a few super hot days, but with the ceiling fans on and the windows open we were fine, even on the hottest, most airless of nights.

Anybody who has paid an air conditioning bill will tell you just how expensive that is, so designing a house that doesn’t need any has been a fabulous investment.  Investing in solar panels has been another!

Fitting solar panels
Fitting solar panels on our home was easy to do.  With a largely flat roof (we have a small incline to handle rain water) the panels were easy to position in a north facing direction and are not shaded at all.

Solar panels need to be correctly angled to maximise the energy you can harness.  The angle is different depending on your latitude, and whether you want to save energy in summer (for air conditioning) or winter (on heating).  A rough guide is your angle should be your latitude +10 degrees for summer savings, - 10 degrees for winter savings

You also need to make sure you install enough panels to make a difference to your power bill.   Looking back we could have installed double, but at the end of an expensive build we spent what we could afford.

These are all considerations that will depend on your property and budget, solar installation professionals can help you work through the considerations.

Are the power bills down?
Yes, perhaps not as much as I would have liked, but it definitely helps. 

At the moment we feed the power we generate back into the grid and are paid for the contribution.  This is not a winning deal for us as the amount we are paid is far less than the amount we are charged per unit.  Even though (personal gripe) the power companies can sell green energy for top dollar prices. 
I would prefer to store the energy we generate in a battery that we use instead of drawing on the grid, but the battery technology is still expensive and not necessarily efficient.  An investment for the future.

It’s very satisfying to check the meter on a hot day and see just how much energy we converted to power for the day!

Types of panel
We installed the tilted solar panels on top of our roof that you are probably familiar with.  They are on the top of our largely flat roof and we can’t see them at all which is great because they don’t interfere with the look of the house.
But if you have, or are planning, a tile roof, Monier produces a solar roof tile that can be laid as part of their tiled roof systems, incorporated seamlessly into the roofline.  What a great idea!  The efficiency will depend on the angle of your roofline and how much of it faces in the right direction but it’s definitely an idea worth investigating.

Having lived in our house for 2 years I can tell you that our west facing walls get blisteringly hot in summer.  We faced the house away from the west heat and only have a drying yard on that side.  On some summer days its almost to hot to go out and hang up the washing, it certainly feels hot enough to fry and egg, and the wall finish takes a pounding from the sun.  Imagine if we had clad the entire wall in solar panels – no maintenance and it would generate energy.  Perhaps a solution for the future

At the end of the day all these features have been very worthwhile, we have a house that lives lightly on the grid, and is comfortable for us and our pockets.  We should all be future proofing our homes for energy efficiency.

For  more in the Build 101 series: where I share my experiences to make your build decisions easier, click here.

Image inspiration via Houzz: top, bottom

Friday, May 1, 2015

Fresh colour by Arent & Pyke

Can't get this pretty colourful image from interior design house Arent & Pyke out my mind.  Could be all the gloomy weather we have been having in Sydney has me longing for the sun again.  

I am in love with the palm tree pillow.  See more of this eclectic apartment here.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Build 101...favourite floor finishes

As part of the Build 101 series I am sharing my favourite products with you.  Products that I would totally specify again, products that were worth what we spent on them, products I would recommend again and again. 
I thought I would kick off with floors.  Floors are a large investment and the base of your scheme, they need to be right.  This is the place to invest in good quality finishes that won't date and will wear well.

Smoked and Black Oak by Royal Oak Floors.
If I had to choose one luxe item to spend money on it would be these wooden floors. They set the tone of our home, they feel lovely underfoot, and they are the single most commented on item when people come around for the first time.  

The smoked and black colour is fabulous, very good at hiding sand and muddy little footprints.  Not that my floor is dirty, but I don't want to notice every leaf that blows in.  In a previous house we had polished walnut stained floors which showed every spec of dust, never again.  
The soft tone adds instant texture to our room, especially the large open spaces, and it works as well with cooler grey tones as it does with warmer colours.

In the image above you can see how beautifully the wood tones in with bedroom carpets and the bathroom tiles.

Cavalier Bremworth pure wool carpet - in overtones buckskin
These carpets were a great value buy.  Wool comes in a wide price range, I adored the top end of the Cavalier Bremworth range but they were just to far out of my budget.  What I specifically like about the Overtones range is they are not a flat colour.  Flat colour carpets can be quite dominating, or very bland.  Overtones as a small variation in its weave, just enough to be easy on the eye.  The variation also means that any little marks and spills are hard to see.  
The best reason to choose wool is how easy it is to clean, much easier than sisal or synthetics.  We had a large accident in one of the bedrooms and it cleaned right away.  It took a lot of Mr Nifty and elbow grease but it is totally gone.  Fab for homes with children and pets!

Originally I wanted sisal in the bedrooms, but sisal has issues with water marks and staining, something to consider when you are designing a family home.  I had a sisal sample and Miss E said "please don't get that one mummy, I need something soft to sit on when I play".  Good point and I am glad I went with wool.

In the image above the Overtones carpet is in the centre and you can see how well it works with the Pietra Grey tiles in the en suite bathroom, and the linen curtains in the master bedroom.

Tips and tricks:
  • If you lay carpet pay up to get the best quality thickest underlay you can afford.  You will have this carpet a long time and it makes a huge difference to the feel under foot.
  • Get samples of your floor finishes and carry them around with you when you are choosing all your other finishes.  Everything needs to work with your floors from paint colours, to furniture fabrics, to your bathroom fittings.
  • Limit the floor finishes you choose to create a harmonious visual flow between your rooms. In our Sydney home we have wood in the living areas, and the same carpet in all the bedrooms.  
  • Check that finishes read well together so areas where they are adjoining look good eg where the wooden floor stops and carpet begins, and where the carpet meets the bathroom tiles.

For more advice on building see the rest of the Build 101 series here, where I share my experience to make your build experience that little bit easier.

Friday, April 24, 2015

resort style bean bags...at the pool

I have shared these gorgeous comfortable bean bags with you already, see them set up for an evening with friends in my courtyard here, but had to share how lovely they look by the pool too.  
Like lots of parents I spend a lot of summer supervising at the pool side, now I can do it in real comfort.  No more hard deck for me!  No more numb bum.  Bring on the gorgeous Us Time double seater, easy to move out of splash range, super comfy, and big enough for cuddles when the kids are cold.  

They are waterproof, so splashes won't matter, and easy to wipe down, just in case the sun screen ends up on them instead of the children.  
Now all I need is a lovely cool drink and the summer days can go on for ever. 

For more shapes and colours, they go from single seaters right up to a deluxe twin recliner, visit Resort Style Bean Bags.  Affordable and stylish, they definately get my seal of approval.

I purchased these bean bags from Resort Style Bean Bags and all opinions are, as always, my own.